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Destination: Los Angeles County

A Guide to Our Own Backyard

Where to take out-of-town family and friends after they've seen Disneyland and Universal

May 19, 1996


1. Start with breakfast at the Original Pantry Bakery & Sandwich Shop or the Original Pantry Cafe (875 and 877 Figueroa; 213-627-6879 and 213-972-9279). You might bump into L.A.'s Mayor Richard Riordan (he owns both places).

2. Take 9th to Flower, turn right and go about 2 miles to where Flower dead-ends at Figueroa and Exposition Park, which includes the California Museum of Science and Industry (700 State Dr.; 213-744-7400). Kids can watch chicks hatch, make rocket fuel or go on a molecular treasure hunt.

3. At the other end of Exposition Park, kids can make fossil rubbings and play educational games at the Natural History Museum's Discovery Center (900 Exposition Blvd.; 213-744-4715).

4. Follow the signs to the Harbor (110) Freeway north. Just past Downtown, exit onto the Golden State (5) Freeway north, exit at Los Feliz going west. Turn right at Crystal Springs/Riverside into Griffith Park. More than 4,000 acres of fun. The park ranger headquarters (4730 Crystal Springs Dr.; 213-665-5188) has information and maps. The park hosts dozens of film, TV, music video and commercial shoots. It's been a favorite locale for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Beverly Hills 90210. Claim a picnic table or eat at the Pony and Train Rides (4730 Crystal Springs Dr.; 213-664-3266).

5. Continue on Crystal Springs north to the Los Angeles Zoo (5333 Zoo Drive; 213-666-4650), which has 1,200 animals from around the world.

6. Across the parking lot is the Autry Museum of Western Heritage (4700 Western Heritage Way; 213-667-2000). Founded by Gene Autry, the signing cowboy of radio, TV and movies, as a tribute to the West, both real and Hollywood- created. In the discovery gallery, kids dress up in authentic Western garb.

7. Farther north, kids can see century-old locomotives, trolley cars and fire trucks and ride a miniature train at the Travel Town Museum (5200 Zoo Drive; 213-662-9678).

8. Ready for dinner? Drive back to Los Feliz and turn right. The children's menu at Louise's Trattoria (4500 Los Feliz Blvd.; 213-667-0777) offers barbecued chicken mini-pizzas and spaghetti with meat-balls.

ITINERARY TWO: Day at the Beach

Marina del Rey, Venice and Santa Monica are like three sisters with distinct personalities. The Marina is the one who married well and lives the good life. Venice is the wild Bohemian. And Santa Monica has wide-ranging interests -- books, the arts, the outdoors.

1. Start in Marina del Rey, home of the world's largest man-made, small-boat harbor, with breakfast at the Terrace Restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (4375 Admiralty Way; 310-823-1700).

2. Turn left on Admiralty Way, right on Via Marina, left on Washington, right on Dell. Park and walk to the Canals of Venice. In 1905, businessman Abbot Kinney's oddball dream was to recreate Italy's Venice in the marshlands south of Santa Monica. Once, Venice boasted 16 miles of canals. The few that remain are hidden but well worth the visit. Superb views from four bridges on Dell. Plants spill over the banks, ducks paddle about and rowboats float in front of homes.

3. Continue north on Dell, left on Venice Blvd.. and right on Pacific Ave. to Windward. Here are the fading Doge's Palace and other Venetian-style buildings. A number of top L.A. artists work around here.

4. Park on Windward and head west to the carnival of Venice Beach. Wackiness reigns: Roller-bladers in bikinis mix with chainsaw jugglers. Make your way north, past the Tarot tables and Muscle Beach exhibitionists. "White Men Can't Jump" was filmed at the basketball court. Grab a patio table at the Sidewalk Cafe (1401 Ocean Front Walk; 310-399-5547) and watch the full boardwalk parade.

5. Go east on Windward around the traffic circle and right on Santa Monica's Main Street. Great for strolling, browsing and lunching. Arnold Schwarzengger's Schatzi (3110 Main; 310-399-4800), the Ocean Park Omelette Parlor (No. 2732; 310-399-7892), celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's Chinois (No. 2709; 310-392-9025). The Edgemar complex, a redesigned egg-processing plant, houses the contemporary Santa Monica Museum of Art (No. 2437; 310-399-0433).

6. Continue north on Main, left on Colorado to the pier. Park here or in city garages on 2nd or 4th, between Broadway and Wilshire. Saner than the Venice Boardwalk, the Santa Monica Pier is still plenty funky. There are arcade games, a new amusement park and a historic merry-go-round featured in the "The Sting."

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